Citing the dependence on public transportation for many of its working-class residents, members of the Santa Ana City Council have publicly opposed plans to reduce bus services and lines. The plans, introduced by the Orange County Transportation Authority, involved the elimination of two bus routes in the city.
While City Council members and citizens battles to keep the lines active, the Transportation Authority cites a major decline in Orange County riders, starting as far back as 2008. According to the figures presented, the public transportation system has seen a 30% decline in riders – roughly 20 million people in that seven year span.
However, many of these declines may be traced back to questionable decisions made in years past. After the Great Recession, the Transportation Authority decided to cut services equally across several geographical regions. The decision to make these cuts were not based on ridership or the population depending on bus services, and have affected countless riders.
Recently, The Transportation Authority had proposed a major reallocation of resources, eliminating or reducing buses on poorly-performing routes and increasing frequency in more popular lines. These changes were introduced as part of an effort to undo some of the damages from 2008, when the major declines started.
One Transportation Authority official claimed that the improvements would increase ridership by 1.6 million over three years, and were only introduced after riders demanded such changes. While some say that the plan itself will help bring back riders, many are worried that it will simply introduce even more barriers to a system that has been plagued for years by inconsistencies and failures.
Among the routes scheduled to be eliminated are 51, running along Flower Street through Santa Ana-Costa Mesa, and 145, which runs from the city’s downtown to South Coast Plaza. In November of 2015, these two routes alone served 27,819 riders. Although the figures seem monumental, Transportation Authority officials claim that these riders will have more options after the changes, as they are reallocations of resources and not reductions of total service.
Whether the proposed plans would actually create more effective options for the riders of 51 and 145 remains to be seen. There are lines that run parallel to the routes-in-question, Transportation officials say.
The City’s counterargument is clear: those ‘parallel lines’ would add a half-mile walk for riders, numerous transfers and increased wait time between transfers to arrive at the same location. Even clearer was the City’s surprise at the proposed cuts – especially because of the significant percentage of the Santa Ana working population that relies on the continued service of these bus lines. They feel that, at the very least, they should have been approached sooner about the planned changes, which had been originally slated for approval in early February.
After citizens gathered at a board meeting open to the public on January 25th, the Transportation Authority has announced that its staff will make revisions to the plan. The revisions meeting will take place on Feb. 11th, while changes will go to a full board vote on the 22nd.
Any changes approved to the plan will go into effect as early as June of 2016.